Plenty Newcastle managers in the past have been prepared to play fast and loose with players returning from injury, or with ongoing injury problems.
Alan Pardew the prime one, prepared to risk Newcastle players on numerous occasions, only for them to end up out injured for far longer after gambles taken.
Mikel Merino looked Newcastle’s best player earlier in the season and after returning to the squad after suffering a back injury, fans have been puzzled as to why the Spanish Under 21 star hasn’t featured more.
The past five weeks have seen only one Premier League start, in the 0-0 draw with Brighton, as well as appearing in the less strenuous FA Cup match with League Two Luton.
The midfielder though has now revealed that he still isn’t 100% and remains affected by back problems, though the good news is that he is feeling stronger all the time and expects to be back to full fitness in the coming weeks.
Rafa Benitez is clearly taking no chances and Mikel Merino name checks the United boss for his help, encouragement and advice.
With the United boss hoping to bring in some players in the next week and the first of those, Kenedy, now on Tyneside for his medical, no doubt Rafa Benitez will have in mind the type of team and tactics that is going to be his mainstay in this relegation/survival run-in.
A fully fit Mikel Merino would be a huge help and Rafa’s patience and looking after the midfielder will hopefully be rewarded.
“I have had a lot of injuries during my career but…the back is the worst one I think, because it affects a lot.
“You can’t turn, you can’t sprint, you can’t jump.
“Sometimes it is hard to play with these kind of injuries because you feel like you can do 100% but you are doing 50% and nobody knows it.
“It is hard but you have to carry on – a lot of players are playing with injuries and it’s part of the sport, so I deal with it.”
“The back injury which I still have a little bit is improving and I feel much better.
“I am almost at 100% physically and feeling good in training – I feel that I’m at a good level.
“I hope that in a few weeks I don’t have any problems and I will be 100%.
“Manager, team-mates and staff are always trying to help me, giving advice and encouragement.”